What place is there for culture in the cosmos? Is the cosmos pregnant with meaning or void and meaningless? Is life filled with purpose or the empty fruit of randomness?
The last two posts have opened variations on a theme that I'll bet we will return to many times in this blog. The question can be simply put - what is the proper relation between the great human endeavors of science and religion? All the members of 13.7 are people who spend their lives thinking in, on and around science. That means we have all been deeply moved by the vision, both cosmic and personal, that science offers. Understanding what, if anything, that vision has to with the domains of spiritual longing is one reason we are here.
For my part I am a-theistic. A willful intelligent deity whose powers and properties need to be articulated in a way that does not conflict with an order already articulated through scientific investigation does not make much sense to me as a physicist. A Being who decides on the Red Socks one year and the Yankees the next doesn't match my lived sense of a universe that unfolds on its own - a universe whose mystery is its own. At the same time I can't find much in common with the rabid schools of atheists that seem to believe they speak for science. Seeing only the horror and blindness religion have generated (no argument there) they willfully blind themselves to the full range of beauty, compassion, and insight that human spiritual endeavor have generated across time.
To be human is to live in the midst of horizons -- at the very least the one that defines our own mortality. When science is held to be nothing more than a box of answers that beats out all other answer boxes we miss both its limits and its potential. As individuals and as a culture we are charged to create meaning with all the tools available to us: the ones we reason with; the ones we intuit from; those we make music through.
The comments from the last few posts were great and showed the wide range of people's encounter with these issues. In one of the comments Mathew Lee reminded us of a wonderful insight by Carl Sagan in his book the Pale Blue Dot:
A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.
Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge.
Sooner would be better than later.